US Report: Xeon a zero in high end?

The performance-hungry high end of the PC workstation market has some new choices on its menu, featuring Intel Corp.'s 450MHz Pentium II Xeon processor.

Intel rolled out the top-of-the-line processor today, and IBM, Dell Computer Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Gateway Inc. and Intergraph Corp. were among the OEMs announcing workstations based on the chip.

For workstation users who run compute-intensive applications, a bump in clock speed is welcome news. "In this market every ounce of performance is very important to the user," said Raghu Murthi, director of product marketing in Intel's workstation products division, in Santa Clara, Calif.

But the 450MHx Xeon may not be exactly what they're looking for, according to one industry analyst. Xeon-based workstations are priced from 70 percent to 400 percent higher than 450MHz Pentium II workstations, while performance differences range from zilch to 15 percent, said Peter Foulkes of Dataquest Inc., in San Jose, Calif.

"The concern I have is that Xeon, in some respects, may not offer enough of a performance boost above a regular 450 Pentium II to justify the price increase," Foulkes said.

The 450MHz processors are shipping with 512KB of L2 cache, with options for 1MB or 2MB scheduled to ship by year's end, Murthi said. Intel has priced the 450MHz Xeon at $824 (£515) in quantities of 1,000 and cut the price of the 400MHz processor with the 512K cache from $1,124 (£703) to $824 (£515).

The major Windows NT workstation makers rolled out systems ranging in price from Gateway's $3,700 (£2,313) E-5250 to Intergraph's $4,225 (£2,641) TDZ 2000 GX1 Vizual workstation.

As reported Monday, IBM is selling its IntelliStation Z Pro starting at $4,150 (£2,594). According to Mike Kerr, IBM director of worldwide marketing for workstations in Raleigh, N.C., the 512KB cache is optimal for most workstation applications.

Dell, of Round Rock, Texas, is taking orders for the 450MHz Precision WorkStation 610, with prices starting at $3,266 (£2,041) for a system with 64MB of RAM and a 4GB hard drive, according to Fred Barhydt, brand manager in Dell's workstation division.

Houston-based Compaq will ship its Professional Workstation SP700 this month starting at $3,599 (£2,249) for a system with 128MB of RAM and a 4GB drive, according to spokesman Gary Frazier. Compaq's line is based on the Highly Parallel System Architecture developed by Reliance Computer Corp.

HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., will ship next week new Kayak XU and XW workstations with the 450MHz Xeon, according to Kathleen Tandy, North American product line manager for HP Kayak, in Cupertino, Calif. Pricing has not been set.

Intergraph, of Huntsville, Ala., will refresh its TDZ 2000 GX1 Vizual workstation with the 450MHz Xeon, according to Debbie Clark, workstation product marketing manager. Pricing starts at $4,225 (£2,641).

Gateway's E-5250 workstation with the new processor is available now.


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